When people see me in my wheelchair and ask about my persistent smile, I always say, “I’ve learned to sing my way through suffering.” Over the years, I have discovered that singing is not an option for Christ-followers; it’s a command. Whether Colossians 3 or Ephesians 5, we are not merely invited to sing; God tells us to sing.
My tiresome day-to-day disability routines can wear me down, and often, I feel like caving in emotionally. Sitting in a wheelchair or lying in bed in chronic pain? Unable to mentally put two words together in prayer? I can at least sing hymns. The words come easily since I’ve memorized so many, such as “All the Way My Saviour Leads Me”…
“All the way my Saviour leads me, cheers each winding path I tread; gives me grace for every trial, feeds me on the living Bread. When my weary soul may falter and my soul a-thirst may be, gushing from the Rock before me, lo, a Spring of joy I see!”
When my weary soul falters, singing is a way of turning my soul God-ward. Especially when affliction tries to drag me in the opposite direction. When my mind is in a brain fog, I can still express my confidence in Christ through hymns I know by heart. If I can’t speak my praise? I can sing my praise. When I sing a hymn, the wise words – enriched by my whisper-of-a-melody – becomes my sacrifice of soulful praise to God.
When we follow God’s command to sing, we receive the promise of Colossians 3:16. We are assured that the word of Christ will dwell in us richly. For example, this past Sunday in our worship service, we sang “Come Thou, Almighty King.” Every stanza is a theology lesson which teaches us about the character of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Sitting in my wheelchair, each stanza became a reminder of the faithfulness of my high and holy God.
Suffering can so easily lead us down grim, dark paths of remorse, doubt and fear. But memorizing rigorous hymns of the faith is a way of learning the great Christian doctrines on which my convictions are founded.
When I am weak, “I will sing of Your strength; I will sing aloud of Your steadfast love in the morning. For You have been to me a fortress and a refuge in my day of distress” (Psalm 59). And when my suffering tries to convince me that I am helpless to do anything, Psalm 63 teaches me, “For You have been my help, O Lord, and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy.”
Many years ago, after I got out of the hospital and began to be more hopeful, a friend showed me James 5:13: “Is anyone cheerful? Then let him sing praise.” That verse struck me! Here, God had reached down and rescued me from suicidal depression; why shouldn’t I sing?! And so, I am happy to sing his praise through my hardships. After all, I serve a singing Saviour who, on the night he was betrayed; who, in that dark hour when he faced unthinkable pain and suffering… sang a hymn with his friends (Mark 14:26). He went to the cross singing. I am called to do the same as I daily pick up my cross and follow him (Luke 9:23).
Friend, you and I have every reason to be cheerful in Christ. So, join me in taking up
the cross our Father has assigned us; join me in walking the blood-stained path to Calvary and… sing of your Saviour, and sing to your Saviour. It’s the beautiful melody that the Trinity loves to hear!
Joni Eareckson Tada is an advocate for disabled people and a popular author and speaker. She partners with the UK organization Through the Roof.
Tel: 01372 74995